Zoot alors – or words to that effect! Here I am, breaking the habit of a lifetime and actually singing the praises of French politicians.
First, let me state emphatically this is entirely unrelated to President Francois Hollande’s crass mismanagement of an economy that’s stinks worse than an over-ripe Camembert, where recession deepens and a record 3.22 million – 10.6% of the workforce – are jobless.
Indeed, I’ll even desist from naming and shaming the host of Champagne Socialists in Hollande’s regime, who put the flushest of Old Etonians in David Cameron’s Cabinet to shame when it comes to piling up the moolah.
So what am I doing extolling the virtues of Gallic lawmakers and some of their loonier edicts – retaining a 35-hour week and thinking you can compete with the Germans…words fail me – whose peccadilloes are very much in keeping with notoriously lax, French political custom and practice?
Where France excels, however, is in its attachment to the principles of La Révolution of 1789, when aristos were trundled off to the guillotine in tumbrels without so much as a by-your-leave trial (okay, okay…there was a pretence of one, but it was a foregone conclusion they’d always end up several inches shorter later that day).
Today, it applies rather differently, but nonetheless with the same ruthless efficiency.
Because, when it comes to dealing with nasties – particularly of the Islamic persuasion, foaming at le gob with notions of imposing sharia rule on the nation where liberté, égalité, fraternité were invented – the French retain the final word…and it’s ‘Non!’
Instead of ‘Off with their heads’, nowadays it’s ‘Au revoir and off you go’ and Abdul, Ali or Mo are on the first plane out of Paris De Gaulle to be delivered to from whence they came.
So why has Britain been stuck with the ogrish spectre of Abu Qatada, who made a mockery of five Home Secretaries’ attempts over the last 10 years to deport him back to his native Jordan, where he has been convicted on terror charges in absentia.
At least, the odious, hate preacher – who arrived in the UK on a false passport in 1993 and was described by a judge as ‘Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe’ – threw in the towel yesterday (April 10) and agreed to hop it home, once a new treaty guaranteeing him a fair trial is ratified.
However, had he chosen La Belle France instead of Angleterre in the first place, he’d already be banged up in an Amman jail, counting his prayer beads and ruing his luck.
Like Britain, France is a liberal democracy, a member of the EU, a signatory to the convention on human rights and, likewise, at the mercy of the boneheads who sit in judgement at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Unlike Britain, it is also a member of the Schengen Bloc, so its borders are porous to the sort of people you’d rather not have sharing a garden fence.
Moreover, even with several million Muslim votes at stake, French politicians have passed edicts banning religious symbols – principally the burqa – in public.
Meanwhile, between 2001 and 2010, the French expelled 129 Islamic headbangers while Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, and four of her frustrated predecessors managed to shift only an abysmal nine nasties deemed to pose a threat to national security.
And, bizarrely, France’s Interior Minister didn’t have to jump through legalistic hoops, scurry back and forth to Arab countries – like Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, whose justice systems are similarly as whiffy as over-ripe Camembert – gaining assurances the jihadi detritus being returned to sender would be treated fairly.
On the other hand, Mrs. May went to immense pains to wring out of the Jordanians guarantees Qatada would not be tortured or that any evidence used against him had not been tainted by brutal interrogation.
This baffling double-standard hasn’t escaped the attention of counter-terrorism expert, Dr. Frank Foley, whose new book, Countering Terrorism in Britain & France (Cambridge University Press), highlights the discrepancies between the Gallic and Anglo approaches to eradicating the dangers posed by extremists.
His conclusion is it that the framework of Britain’s legal system – and how it differs from that across the Channel – is as much to blame as that deservedly much-maligned, judicial joke, the ECHR.
Foley says, ‘In France, individuals only have limited means of preventing their deportation, because of the relevant legal regulations and because of the swift expulsion practices of the French authorities.’
There, an appeal does not immediately suspend expulsion, so an individual can be deported and afterwards petition a judge to overrule it from the discomfort of his homeland.
Foley explains, ‘The authorities have pre-empted such legal moves by putting the individual on a plane home within just a few days of the order being issued.’
Nor is France particularly fazed by the niceties of other nations’ notions of justice.
‘The French courts have not overturned any of the government’s deportation decisions on the basis that radical Islamists face a risk of torture or mistreatment if they are returned,’ reports Foley.
However, in Qatada’s case, neither did UK courts. Since 2001, British judges twice upheld efforts to boot him out. And, in 2007, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission agreed Jordanian assurances were enough to override human rights fears. This was upheld in 2009 by the Law Lords, who also ruled that it wasn’t for British courts ‘to regulate the conduct of trials in foreign countries’ or decide on the merits of evidence.
So what was Qatada – who demands Jews and converts from Islam (plus their kith and kin) be murdered and declared it is forever open season on annihilating Americans – still doing dodging Jordanian justice in Britain, while in possession of an £800,000, 4-bedroom house in West London, courtesy of the taxpayer?
The problem stems from various UK governments’ tardiness in reacting to jihadis in the Nineties, when they could have copied the French example and closed a glaring loophole. Had this been done, a legal cottage industry defending the indefensible wouldn’t have mushroomed, costing millions in Legal Aid, and would have subverted European meddling.
Instead – as Qatada’s case disgracefully demonstrated – knowing Strasbourg would overrule them, powerless UK judges began caving into Abu’s appeals…until Friday’s voluntary game-changer.
So while liberals may insist the French judiciary is more arbitrary and authoritarian, there’s no denying in Britain, with all its traditions of free speech and civil liberty, the law is an ass when it comes to dealing with nasties like Qatada.
Which is why – just before I wash my mouth out with lye soap – I’ll say, ‘Vive la France!’